Reading My Way Around the World

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Irish Songs in a Woman's Key: The Last Rose of Summer

All the guitar books that I've come across, for folk or particularly for Irish songs, annotate the songs in keys that are suitable for men.   Women who are starting to play guitar and who haven't mastered the art of transposing yet ( a subject for another post) try to play the songs and give up really quickly because either the song is way too low or way too high.  
Several of my female students ask me for the chords of songs so I thought it'd be good to start a series here with particular focus on Irish songs, both traditional and contemporary.  These keys are the keys in which I play and sing the songs.    To move the song higher, move the capo up another fret or two.

The Last Rose of Summer is a beautiful song about friendship.  Thomas Moore was writing at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries.   Irish born, he was the darling of the London court and wrote many beautiful songs that are still being sung today, mostly in a classical style, but I think they are just as valid sung in lower keys and in a more folk style.

This is in the key of G

The Last Rose of Summer
lyrics by Thomas Moore, tune traditional
                  G      C            G                     Em   Am    D      G
'Tis the last rose of summer, left blooming a---lone 
D             G   C              G                        Em  Am    D     G
All her lovely com-pa-nions are fa  - ded and gone
          Em            C     G                  Em            (Bm)     C        
No flower of her kindred, no rose bud is      nigh 
D         G      C       D     G                       Em   Am    D    G
To reflect back her blushes or to give sigh for sigh. 

I'll not leave thee, thou lone one! to pine on the stem
Since the lovely are sleeping, go sleep thou with them
'Thus kindly I scatter thy leaves o'er the bed
Where thy mates of the garden lie scentless and dead. 

So soon may I follow, when friendships decay
And from love's shining circle the gems drop away
When true hearts lie wither'd and fond ones are flown
Oh! who would inhabit this bleak world alone!

* ( The Bm in brackets can be omitted)

Here is a quite classical version, sung very high, from the US musical spectacular Celtic Woman ( I love their outfits)

This blog is Day 15 of Sarah Allen's 30 day blog challenge


  1. I picked up a guitar locally the other day and wanted to buy and learn it! I love acoustic so much and write songs, but can't write music.

    Fil, do you think it's possible to quickly learn enough chords and basics to be able to write simple base lines to a melody?

    I don't know if I could do it, but I picked up piano quickly when I stayed at a friend's house when I was a teenager. No-one saw me. I was on it half the day learning new tunes!

    1. Absolutely Sarah - if you're already playing guitar and writing songs then all the work's done, bar writing it down. There's a very basic theory course that LCM do for Popular Music - you could teach yourself the basics in a couple of nights ... I'll see if I can find a link have all the grades form grade 1 up but what you need is the preliminary grade and it teaches all the basics .... If you email me separately I'll send you some stuff -

  2. i did comment once then had to sign in and it lost my comment!
    lovely song i never heard it before. i dont play guitar but sing and play uke - not sure its suited to uke though. i think you should write a book of the transposed songs i bet there would be a few women and teens buy it!

    1. I'd love to be able to play the ukulele Melanie - I"m sure these chords will work there too - thank you for the encouragement :)


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